Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Invading Nebraska

Commander K. in Omaha)
The Great state of Nebraska has much to offer: rolling corn fields, delicious steaks, Warren Buffett and amazing college football to name just a few things.  My favorite steakhouse in the world is Gorats in Omaha (https://goratsomaha.com/).  There are so many reasons to "invade" Nebraska.  Please enjoy the Nebraska chapter of America Invaded (www.americainvaded.com)...

T-Bone at Gorats
Mouth watering!

"In the early years of European colonization of North America, European interest in what is now the state of Nebraska came from two main directions: Spain and France.

The  first Europeans to come close to the area were probably those in the Spanish Coronado expedition, which set off north from Mexico in search of gold.  The expedition finally reached a place they called Quivira where a guide had told them they would find gold.  They didn’t find any gold, so Coronado had the guide strangled and then went home gold-less.  The exact location of Quivira is not known. Some have suggested it was in Nebraska, but it is more likely that it was just to the south, in Kansas.

The Spanish may not actually have been to Nebraska, but they claimed land in the region in the name of the Spanish throne nonetheless.

La Salle
1643 - 1687

But soon other Europeans would approach Nebraska from a different direction. In 1682, Frenchman René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle claimed for France the whole Mississippi river basin. He too had not actually been to Nebraska.

The fact that two mighty European empires were now expressing an interest in their territory made basically zero difference to the various Native American peoples who were actually living in what is now Nebraska. However, during the eighteenth century, that would change.

French explorers actually entered the area. In 1714, Étienne de Bourgmont journeyed from the mouth of the Missouri River to the mouth of the Platte River, which he referred to as the Nebraskier River.

Meanwhile, the Spanish were getting worried about what the French might be up to in the area, so they decided to act. In 1720, they sent a military expedition north from Santa Fe that eventually reached Nebraska.  The expedition wasn’t a great success, however. In fact, from a Spanish point of view, it was pretty much a total disaster. Lieutenant-General Pedro de Villasur was in command of the expedition, which consisted of forty-five soldiers, sixty Pueblo Indians, a priest, and an interpreter. Somewhere near what is now Columbus, Pawnee warriors attacked Villasur’s overnight encampment. Villasur and most of the soldiers were killed, and what was left of the Spanish party headed for home as fast as it could.

The expedition was a pointless waste in more than one sense since the French, as it turned out, were not in a huge hurry to expand into Nebraska. French-Canadian explorers Pierre and Paul Mallet did turn up at the mouth of the Platte River in 1739. However, by 1763, France had lost the Seven Years’ War, and all their claims in the area had been handed over to the Spanish.

The Spanish, in turn, took a relaxed approach to exploring and exploiting Nebraska, and another war was needed to energize the situation.  The American Revolution created a new, aggressive colonizing power to the east and left Britain, still in control of Canada, keen to exert its influence where it still could.

With the enthusiastic support of the Spanish authorities in St. Louis, the Company of Explorers of the Upper Missouri was formed in 1793. In the end, it did not achieve a huge amount, but an expedition under the Scottish John McKay did at one point establish an outpost called Fort Charles somewhere near what is now Dakota City.  The days of the fairly limited Spanish power in the area were almost at an end. Soon after, France reasserted its claims to the land and then rapidly sold the land to the young United States in the Louisiana Purchase.
Lewis & Clark
The United States, in turn, moved rapidly to explore its new purchases. Lewis and Clark’s Corps of Discovery Expedition headed west in 1804, managing to avoid ambush by Spanish forces sent to Nebraska to intercept them.

The War of 1812 saw another flaring of the battle for influence in North America between Britain and the United States. Neither side had much of a presence in Nebraska at that time, but Manuel Lisa, a Spanish-American fur trader from New Orleans, had established Fort Lisa near the Council Bluff. His widespread commercial and social contacts with the local tribes helped prevent British influence from spreading.

The disastrous Yellowstone Expedition of 1819 did at least reach the Council Bluff site. However, the men then suffered a terrible winter in which many of them died. In the spring of 1820, they built Fort Atkinson.

Gradually, more traders and eventually settlers followed, and the process began of the Native American tribes in Nebraska being pressured and bribed to give up their lands.

In 1854, the Kansas-Nebraska Act created Nebraska Territory (which included much more land than the current state of Nebraska). By its provisions, the act allowed the settlers in Kansas to decide whether Kansas would be a state allowing slavery or not.  is led to the period known as Bleeding Kansas, as pro- and antislavery gangs clashed. Some of this chaos and carnage spilled over into Nebraska.

However, it was not slavery that would soon see the US Army campaigning on the soils of what is now Nebraska.

William S. Harney
1800 - 1889

There was the Battle of Ash Hollow in 1855, though battle is perhaps a rather grand name for what happened. After the so-called Grattan Massacre, Brigadier General Willliam S. Harney was dispatched with a column of troops to conduct punitive operations and find those who had killed Grattan’s men. In September 1855, Harney found a Sioux encampment. After he failed to convince the Sioux to hand over the men he was after, Harney attacked. Many of the Sioux, including women and children, were killed.

By contrast, the Pawnee War of 1859 ended without bloodshed after only a few days. After hearing reports of Pawnee raids on settlers of Elk Horn Valley in July of that year, militia and US dragoons prepared to attack a large Pawnee village.  The Pawnee promptly surrendered, and the “war” came to an end.

When the Civil War began, soldiers from what is now Nebraska served in the Union army. No battles were fought there. However, some of the wide- spread lawlessness (some of it political, some of it criminal) that often emerges in war zones did spill over into Nebraska. Jayhawking and bushwhacking were persistent problems for the authorities. For instance, in October 1861, Missouri bushwhackers briefly descended on Falls City and told the inhabitants they were prisoners of war. In October 1863, Felix Von Eaton Jr., US marshal of Fremont County, Ohio, was killed near Nebraska City when in pursuit of alleged Missouri bushwhackers.

The Civil War would not see extensive combat against Confederates in Nebraska, but there was an upsurge of clashes with Native Americans.

Fort Phil Kearny

In August 1864, Cheyenne launched several raids along the Overland Trail. Ranches along the Little Blue River were attacked. Wagons were attacked. At Elk Creek on August 16, a column of soldiers from Fort Kearny was attacked by Cheyenne and forced to make a hasty escape.

Fort Phil Kearny Reconstruction

Fighting continued in 1865. In early February, US troops under Colonel William O. Collins clashed with a group of Cheyenne, Lakota Sioux, and Arapaho in the Battle of Mud Springs. It wasn’t a big victory for either side, and casualties were light. Collins subsequently pursued his enemy and engaged them again a few days later in the Battle of Rush Creek. After another inconclusive encounter, Collins broke off his pursuit.

In 1867, Nebraska became the thirty-seventh state.

In 1873, Sioux attacked Pawnee in the Massacre Canyon Battle.

And in 1876, during the turmoil after Custer’s defeat at the Battle of Little Bighorn, a party of Cheyenne skirmished with US troops in the Battle of Warbonnet Creek. During the action, Buffalo Bill Cody killed and scalped a Cheyenne warrior called Yellow Hair.

Nebraska was to see one last military invasion. In World War II, it was attacked by Fu-Go, Japanese balloon bombs. A plaque on a wall in the Dundee neighborhood of Omaha records the aerial explosion of a Japanese balloon-delivered incendiary device on April 18, 1945."  (Source: www.americainvaded.com)

Commander K. with Gene Dunn -- Owner of Gorats since 2012

Tourist Notes: 1) STEAKS:  Don't miss Gorats in Omaha for delicious steaks (https://goratsomaha.com/).  Say "Hello" to my good friend Gene Dunn!

2) FORT PHIL KEARNY: A beautifully reconstructed Western Fort with visitor center (https://www.fortphilkearny.com/).

SR - 71 at SAC Museum, Nebraska

3) STRATEGIC AIR COMMAND MUSEUM: Just outside of Omaha you will find an incredible museum devoted to the Strategic Air Command -- a crucial element in winning the Cold War for the West (https://sacmuseum.org/).


You can find signed copies of our books at 
these web sites...

No comments: